Extract from Show Me a Mountain
Kingston, Jamaica 1966
I took hold of the padded paper bag. In both hands.
“Yu alright?” She asked.
She crouched down in the aisle at the side of me. Knees held firmly together by her navy blue pencil skirt. Steadying herself with one hand on the chair arm.
I nodded again.
“Nothing to it.” She said. “I fly up and down, up and down, week in week out. Not nobody ever lose the contents of their stomach yet. Even if sometimes they feel like they want to.”
“Don’t you worry about a thing. Captain Byfield know what he doing. Got his wings in the Royal Air Force no less, so that should be good comfort.” She patted my arm lightly. “And I am here to tek extra special care a yu.”
Then she stood up and walked away with her BOAC pillbox hat perched on her head.
I replaced the bag in the seat pocket and sat back, wanting to be reassured by what she’d said to me. Forcing myself to believe that everything was going to be okay.
Gazing out of the window I could see the traffic moving on the ground below. The grey metal staircase being retracted. The dusty flat-bed of the retreating luggage truck. The refrigerated wagon now empty of its pre-prepared food.
Extract from Gloria
“I hear a sigh across the earth.”
I grab a piece a wood and I hit him. And I hit him. And I hit him. And all I can hear is the dull thud like when yu bash open a ripe watermelon and the juice splash all over yu. And then I hear Marcia screaming as she trying to get out from under him. She shoving him off of her but my arm is still moving because all I am thinking about is how he done it to me; and how his hands so rough everywhere he holding me down; and how the coir mattress stick me in the back as I lay there staring up at the rusty old corrugated zinc roof he got on this shack; and how it so hot in here; and how the smell of him, the thick, sour sweat of him, mek my stomach turn and mek me want to heave but I just lay there like a piece of board until it was done.
This is what I am thinking while my arm is swinging and swinging ‘till Marcia grab me and we run outta his stinking pit into the air and the rain. We run past the hole in the ground where he burning the wood to mek the coal and into the trees, through the mango and breadfruit and banana and pear. We just tearing our way past everything. We cut through the cane field and run and run through the bush past branches that catch your arm and roots that catch your foot. Down, down ‘till we mek it to the river. And is then I realise I still got the piece a wood in my hand. So I smash it. I find a big rock and I smash it and pull it and tear it ‘till there was nothing left but twigs and splinters and dust and I throw the bits into the river. And then I jump in after them because the blood is all over me with the rain making it run everywhere. Like its own little river of red rolling down my face and all over my hands and soaking into my frock. And that is when it stop raining.
Extract from Pao
Me and the boys was sitting in the shop talking ‘bout how good business was and how we need to go hire up some help and that is when she show up. She just appear in the doorway like she come outta nowhere. She was standing there with the sun shining on her showing off this hat, well it was more a kind of turban, like the Indians wear, only it look ten times better than that. Or maybe it just look ten times better on her.
She got on this blue dress that look like it must sew up with her already inside of it, it so tight, and a pair of high heel shoes I never before seen the like of. I almost feel embarrassed that she come here and find me like this, sitting on a empty orange crate, in my vest with the beer bottle in my hand. So we all three of us quickly jump up and ask her how we can help. And what she want is for me to go visit her sister in the hospital so I can see what some white sailor boy do to her. “What he do to her?” Hampton ask.